"The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" (2003) | Movie Review Issue #144 Gem Mint 10.0


“The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King“ (2003)

Director: Peter Jackson

Writer: J.R.R. Tolkien (novel), Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens

Starring: Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Bernard Hill, Miranda Otto, Karl Urban, Andy Serkis, John Rhys-Davies, John Noble, David Wenham, Hugo Weaving, Liv Tyler

Rated: PG-13 for intense epic battle sequences and frightening images

Runtime: 3h 21m (theatrical)

Genre: Action | Adventure | Drama | Fantasy

Country: New Zealand | United States

Language: English | Quenya | Old English | Sindarin

Available on: Various VOD platforms


"Gandalf and Aragorn lead the World of Men against Sauron's army to draw his gaze from Frodo and Sam as they approach Mount Doom with the One Ring."


You might like this if you like: J.R.R. Tolkien, Fantasy, Action, Adventure, Drama, War Films, Epics, Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd Dominic Monaghan, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Liv Tyler, Andy Serkis, Brad Dourif, Bernard Hill, Miranda Otto, Karl Urban, Christopher Lee, David Wenham, Hugo Weaving, Craig Parker


(I insist on watching the EXTENDED EDITIONS)


Also read 'The Fellowship of the Ring' (2001) & 'The Two Towers' (2002) reviews for full story


Also spoilers


'The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King' (2003)


By the time this film was announced… God, I remember playing the teaser trailer about a hundred times on the Apple website.. Before YouTube was big and that’s where you’d watch all the best and high quality trailers. Over and over again I’d watch it. The anticipation and build up was the first time I’d ever really done for a film and the start of many to come. By the time the third one was released, I’d asked my mom for some editing software and a camera, which only led to me editing my own trailers and videos for “The Lord of the Rings” and thus began a career in editing and the start of my film path.

If you read my reviews for ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ and ‘The Two Towers’, you’ll know I saw the first in theaters and the second in a hotel room for the first times. I learned my lesson after the second and was ready for the third. I think everyone around my age was. And above and below as well.


Elijah Wood in 'The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King' (2003)

It was at the Ojai Playhouse back in December of 2003. All I remember is my dad, my friend Ruben and I arrived at the playhouse early for a 6:30 or 7:30 showing as my mom would arrive by separate car as she was coming from somewhere else. I’ll never forget how close to the clock she got there as I kept poking my head out looking for her Prius as we eagerly awaited the exciting conclusion to this epic trilogy. She arrived just in time and I remember sitting fairly far back in the incredibly crowded theater, watching all the people shuffling about, I distinctly remember seeing a classmate, now actor of “Freaky” (2020), Magnus Diehl as he went to grab popcorn before the show started.


I don’t think I left my seat. I was glued. I will never forget the feelings I went through when seeing ‘The Return of the King’ for the first time and realizing what was possible to do with cinema. It blew my mind.


Hugo Weaving (left) & Viggo Mortensen (right) in 'The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King' (2003)


The sheer detail of everything they put into that universe is unbelievable. I still am in awe at it today.

Seeing Gondor on the big screen as Gandalf takes Pippin through Minas Tirith with Howard Shore’s booming score is just heart racing to the soul and mind. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing unfold on the silver screen.


'The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King' (2003)

The scale… The breath of it all. It’s so hard for me to capture with so little words. The journeys these characters go on is just incredible for me to watch. These kids getting thrown into this war and what it’s like them all in this incredibly fantastic world. I get it very much replicates the World War that Tolkien lived through, but it still takes me into the deepest of fantasies I’ve ever experienced.

I do want to touch on the fact I have a dislike for spiders, but for some reason I kind of love ‘movie spiders’. Shelob being the Queen B of them all.


Miranda Otto in 'The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King' (2003)


Getting to see Gollum’s origins was one of my favorite sequences. From Sméagol to Gollum and getting to see Andy Serkis act without a motion capture suit was phenomenal to watch. Even more exciting to think about now knowing where that man’s career has taken him.

Many would disagree, but this is by far my favorite film of the trilogy and I saw it 11 times in the theater. My mom accompanied me each time. Thank you, Mom. This movie changed my life. It set me on the path to where I am today. I love every aspect of filming because of this film. It was my film school. It’s the foundation of my inspiration.


'The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King' (2003)

The chills ran across my arm.. A feeling I cherish when sitting in the theater, was something I hadn’t experienced until the final act of ‘The Return of the King’. I was so swept up in the Batte of Pelennor Fields/Minas Tirith, the incredible sequences that Peter Jackson and team gave us, I felt like I had seen it all when the Rohirrim ran through the orcs sieging the castle… Then the Haradrim’s horns blare through the speakers and I hear the entire audience just gasp. The long shot view as the dust clears and we see a line of the biggest Elephants I’ve ever seen in my life, this may be an important detail but Elephants were actually one of my earliest loves pre-cinema, and the faces of the horrified Rohirrim as their victory over the orcs slowly dissipates. I didn’t know… I was 10 years old. I didn’t know that something could get that much bigger in a film, this was my roller coaster. This was the ride I’d been waiting for all my life. I think I started to cry when the Rohirrim just started lining up and decide to go head on at this impossible looking threat. To their deaths. For these little hobbits. These kids. It broke and excited my heart to a level I hadn’t ever felt before in my life. The chills that ran up my arms and through my body as they ran head on to their deaths. I couldn’t believe something that insane was being done on film and it was putting me in that battle with those characters..


'The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King' (2003)


Thank you, Peter Jackson for showing me what’s possible with filmmaking and the lengths you and team went to creating so many incredible moments in a masterpiece of a trilogy. But one hasn’t quite hit me like that charge did. That reveal of the Mumakil. Theoden’s lines as he rally’s his men. Eowyn tightening her grip on Merry. A scene I’ve watched over and over again. A favorite cinematic moment I will never forget.


Written by Sam Gall November 9, 2021


CGC Grading: Gem Mint 10.0


"You could open an entire can of hyperbole over this film, and still run short of adjectives to praise its majesty." - Matthew De Abaitua, Film4


"Passionate and literate, detailed and expansive... it's conceived with a risk-taking flair for old-fashioned movie magic at its most precious." - Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly


"An immense achievement founded on the enduring themes of loyalty, destiny, and hope." - Jeanne Aufmuth, Palo Alto Weekly


"So impeccably and artfully done that we can hardly breathe, immobilized by emotion, suspense, the sheer spectacle, the intimate drama." - Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall


"May well be the transcendent cinematic experience of our time..." - MaryAnn Johanson, Flick Filosopher


Official Trailer:


Behind the Scenes:


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